Friday, September 16, 2005


So, about that conference...

Orchestrated by the Southern Tier Authors of Romance (STAR) chapter of the RWA, it was held at the Holiday Inn in Ithaca, New York. The gathering was small--around fifty attendees, I believe, not counting speakers, editors and agents--which allowed a casual, "we're all in this together" kind of atmosphere not found as often at larger cons.

The highlights:

Friday night kicked off with a lecture at the Lost Dog Café in which I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Romanov murders--where and how the various members of the last Czar's family were shot, bayoneted and bludgeoned, how exactly the bodies were disposed of, why acid was used to burn away their facial features, why the four daughters didn't die as quickly as their parents, and how long it takes to burn a human body as it lies stiffening in the mud. Fascinating, every bit of it, but I was glad I hadn't overdone on dinner, because I'm a HUGE wussy about that stuff unless I'm the one who's making it up. We also heard all about the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, a famous 1920s film director, which was somewhat lighter on the gore, but included a reference to one of my favorite movies of all time: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (pic)

Saturday morning began with a talk by NYT bestseller MaryJanice Davidson on "The Knockout Punch." Basically, MJD promotes the idea that you need a fantastic, hooky, grab-'em-by-the-throat-and-don't-let-go opening line that will insure your manuscript/book gets read by an editor or agent or bookstore browser, and not tossed back into the pile or onto the shelf. You could practically hear the wheels spinning as every member of the audience recalled their various opening lines and cringed. I know I did. My first lines tend to be...uh...less than unforgettable. But I think it's good advice, so when I got home, I did what I could to punch up the opening line of book I'm prepping to submit.

A lovely lunch was accented by NYT bestseller Sherrilyn Kenyon's keynote speech, "There Will Be Pork In The Trees By Morning." (Original quote: The Lion In Winter. When Richard says to Eleanor "When pigs have wings!" she replies, "There will be pork in the trees by morning.")

Lordy, was Ms. Kenyon's tale one of ultimate triumph in the face of endless woe. Seriously, if you tried to make this woman's experiences into a book, an editor would tell you that you were over-selling the pathos--suspension of disbelief only gets you so far, and nobody's life sucks that hard. When Ms. Kenyon could not get a new contract to save her soul, and had lost pretty much everything but her will to write, and her RWA membership was about to expire, and she had to borrow money to buy paper for that last proposal...and her father was dead of cancer...and she lived a roach-infested apartment from which she was about to be evicted...and her agent had dumped her...and Christ, the baby had COLIC...

And folks, this was AFTER she was already a multi-published author.

I dunno about anybody else, but I was worried about the state of my mascara. Who knew I'd have to go the waterproof route for a romance con?

Take home message? PERSEVERE. No matter what, keep going. And when they scoff and say you'll make it when pigs sprout wings? Tell 'em you spy a flock of Bacon Bits on yonder horizon. Thank you, Ms. Kenyon.

As mentioned in my previous post, I also attended a workshop with a lovely agent who did, in fact, have a lot of good things to say about author promotion. I don't even necessarily disagree with her about the whole "don't be controversial on your blog" thing--I'm sure what I say here will, in the end, lose readers. And the fact that I don't care more about that may make it harder for me to find an agent or even an editor who's willing to work with me. I don't think it's bad advice. I just don't think it's the right advice for me.

And now, because I simply can't let a day go by without stirring the shit, my quote and links for the day:

"You could say the new Iraqi Constitution is going to be a bit short on rights for women. You could also say the Arctic in January is brisk." Will Durst

"Between 2001 and 2004, 4.1 million more Americans slipped into poverty while the upper 2% of the country's richest became 55% wealthier. So, say what you will about Bush's policies. They're working." Will Durst

And finally:



Blogger Donald Francis said...

Sounds like a very interesting conference. Just curious - why did the first evening of a romance writer's con focus on the murder of the Romanovs?

9/16/2005 4:09 PM  
Blogger Selah March said...

*looks sheepish*

I showed up thirty minutes late, and missed the introduction, so I dunno. It was interesting, though. Sad, but interesting.

9/16/2005 4:11 PM  
Blogger Donald Francis said...

Cause, you know, I don't tend to think of red roses and wineglasses and wind in the hair when I think about that night in particular. Interesting choice for a keynote topic.

But it would have been a talk I'd have been interested in hearing.

9/16/2005 4:34 PM  
Blogger Selah March said...

Whoa. Slow down there, Sparky.

WHEN have you EVER read ANYTHING about "red roses and wineglasses and wind in the hair" in ANYTHING I've ever written??


9/16/2005 4:37 PM  
Blogger Donald Francis said...

Never. Never, ever, never ever. was a romance writer's con, right? I mean, Heathcliff and moors and bustiers and heaving bosoms? That's not what they talk about at romance writer's cons?


9/16/2005 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Believe it or not, Watcher, there's a fair amount of romance fiction out there that has a goodly bit of gore that has nothing to do with purple prose and male members.

Every year at National, the KOD chapter sponsors a field trip to a local area of interest, such as last year in Dallas, when they went to the local FBI Offices and learned about profiling and just how much C4 it would take to blow up the entire subway system of NYC. Yes, they were teaching that to nice ladies in the interest of research.

Because, < gaspshockhorror > we nice ladies who write the "safe" romances like to have our details correct when disposing of the men who are no longer useful.

9/16/2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger Donald Francis said...



So how much C4 would that take, anyway?

Note that I am in no way offering apologies for my boorish and offensive preconceptions, for that would be tantamount to putting blood into the proverbial waters. Note also that I think "nice ladies" are the sort that drink tea and make up RULES, and we all know how I feel about THAT.

And heh heh...Barb said "member."

9/16/2005 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Now, how did I know that was the one item you'd "latch" on to?

< blink >

9/16/2005 5:00 PM  
Blogger Donald Francis said...

Which one? The C4 or the "member"?

Heh heh heh...this time I said it.

9/16/2005 5:07 PM  
Blogger Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

I found the link to your blog on PBW’s. I enjoyed this post (the MJD and Kenyon talks sounded inspiring and informative) and the previous one with the agent’s idea of the ideal writer’s blog. Golly and gee whiz, I think we’re all in trouble. LOL

Love the vintage graphics on your website, Selah, and your To Have and Have Not book certainly sounds interesting. You clearly have a sharp, clever wit and I hope you continue to blog whatever your little heart desires. ;-)

Wishing you lots of sales, great reviews and nice fat royalties when your Phaze book releases!

9/17/2005 6:24 PM  
Blogger Eva Gale said...

I'm really trying to be good on my blog. I just can't though. I think it's completely impossible to reform myself.

Sounds like you had a great convention. Better than the last to say the least.

9/19/2005 3:05 PM  

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